Dopesick is an American drama miniseries created by Danny Strong for Hulu. Based on the non-fiction book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy premiered on October 13, 2021, and ended on November 17, 2021, at eight o’clock
Set between 1995 and 2006, the series tells the story of how the drug OxyContin affected the lives of Appalachian residents, the DEA’s attempt to stop widespread drug abuse, and the West Virginia U.S. Attorney’s desperate attempt to indict the top executives of Purdue Pharma, which manufactured and marketed the drug.
Introduced as a pain reliever for moderate to the extreme pain, the drug has been embraced by the entire nation. The series follows Purdue Pharma’s attempt to escape money and power. Now, know about Dopesick Season 1.
In 1986, Richard Sackler announced that their company needed to rethink painkillers not only because living with pain was hard, but also because the patent for their most popular drug, MS Contin, was about to expire. The Sackler family needed to come up with another drug that would generate wealth, and Richard Sackler believed OxyContin was the answer. The plan was to market it for mild pain and approve it for long-term use. In 1995, Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin.
Sales representatives were required to aggressively inform doctors of its safety and persuade them to prescribe it. The drug release mechanism was what they kept promoting. The drug was said to be effective for 12 hours and the release was gradual and not sudden, preventing patients from experiencing euphoria. FDA approval made doctors and patients trust the drug. It was stated that “less than 1% become addicted” due to the delayed absorption provided by the tablet.
Betsy Mallum, brilliantly portrayed by Kaitlyn Dever, worked with her father in the mines in the small Appalachian mining town of Finch Creek. She always dreamed of becoming a miner, just like her ancestors. She wanted to prove wrong those who believed that a girl could not work in the mines, so she worked hard. Her parents were religious, although Betsy never felt close to a higher power. She was a closeted lesbian and tried to bring up the topic of sexuality with her parents.
She was in love with Grace, who was openly lesbian and also worked in the mines. Her father did not approve of Betsy’s friendship with Grace, believing that she could destroy his daughter. As much as Grace wanted to escape to a strangely friendly neighborhood with Betsy, she didn’t want to give up her mining job. But everything was disrupted when Betsy injured her back in a mining accident and decided to live with the pain for several days. She was introduced to OxyContin by Dr. Finnix and Betsy wanted nothing more than drugs from that moment on.
Michael Keaton as the small-town doctor is convincing in his subtlety. Dr. Samuel Fennix has been an integral part of the mining town for almost forty years. His wife Shelly wanted to provide free health care to the community, so he ended up in a small Appalachian town. Even though his wife died, he decided to stay there and serve the people.
It was sales representative Billy Cutler who introduced Fennix to OxyContin tablets. While he refused to accept that the narcotic might be less addictive, he couldn’t help but be convinced by the FDA label. He knew the pain the mining population suffered, and the fact that the drug could improve their lives appealed to him. After reading about it, he began recommending the medication to his chronic pain patients and noticed how much they appreciated it. He was convinced, even though gradually everything began to fall apart.
West Virginia Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rick Mountcastle and Randy Ramseyer began studying OxyContin abuse in their community. They knew that Purdue Pharma was lying to the public with less addictive formulations when in fact it was behind the increase in mass abuse. Going up against Purdue Pharma wouldn’t be easy, given how they’ve won all 65 public lawsuits.
Still, West Virginia U.S. Attorney John Brownlee encouraged them to pursue the case, though he warned them that given the power the Sackler family wielded, they needed a huge amount of evidence. Thanks to footage from the 2005 trial, we know that federal prosecutors were able to gather enough evidence to build a case.
While building the case, Rick and Randy discover that the DEA had been pursuing the case before them, but it was suddenly closed. They contacted DEA agent Bridget Meyer, who was handling the case. Bridget pointed out that the root cause of the problem was FDA labeling. Bridget chose not to share any more details about the case, perhaps because it reminded her of how she had failed to get justice despite devoting her life to it. Her failed marriage was a result of her constant involvement in the case, and it was something she had yet to overcome.
“Dopesick” weaves these stories together to create a coherent picture of how tactfully Purdue Pharma designed its product. They had a connection to the top and when they didn’t, they paid their way to make it work. The cunning of the Sackler family, especially Richard Sackler, pushed the drug into public consumption as much as they could.
He devotedly called every sales representative to convince doctors to prescribe the drug, even though he and his entire family knew they were selling a lie and that the drug was addictive. They knew it was an addiction that led to a rapid increase in sales, yet they chose to bask in its fame. “Dopesick Season 1.’
Dopesick Season 1 Ending, Explained: What Happened At The End of The Season?
“Dopesick Season 1.” Doctors came forward to testify against Purdue Pharma after seeing their patients die as a result. Dr. Finnix knew how harmful the drug was after experiencing its effects firsthand. He has prescribed OxyContin when he had the accident and has been unable to stop using the drug ever since. Only after meeting Dr. Artem Van Delem, one of the first doctors to speak out widely against OxyContin was able to get his life back after undergoing therapy sessions.
After losing Betsy to an overdose, he took it upon himself to see that his patients at Finch Creek received treatment for oxygen dependency. He dedicated his life to the cause and later founded a wellness center to help those suffering from addiction.
To prove that the drug was mislabeled, AUSA collected charts that Purdue used to convince its customers of the drug’s safety. The plateau effect they were spreading was fake because it was manipulated. Even the FDA warned them not to use it for marketing, but they did.
Another breakthrough for the case was when Rick and Randy figured out what the Porter/Jick study was that Purdue and several pain companies were referring to whenever discussing the safety of opioids. The less than 1% addictive claim that Purdue made was based on the Porter/Jick study, and the plaintiffs knew that if they could find out how true the study was, they could build a strong case.
The only problem was that the study was nowhere to be found, even though it was referenced several times. After numerous calls and searches, they finally discovered that the study had been published in 1980 in the New England Journal of Medicine. They started going through every issue that came out that year and what they found was astounding.
They noticed that what was claimed to be the “Porter/Jick study” was actually five lines written by Drs. Jick about how the patients he observed in the hospital were mostly not addicted to narcotic drugs. It was an observation and not a study as claimed. Dr. Jick later testified and stated that he was unaware of how his letter to the editor was being used as a study by pain companies.
When he talked about a dependency rate of under 1%, he was specifically talking about a closed hospital setting and not a general study. Therefore, the FDA label and Purdue’s claims have been shown to be false and unsubstantiated.
To impeach Purdue Pharma’s top executives, they gathered evidence that executives knew how addictive the drug was before 2000, which they presented to Congress. In doing so, they proved they had lied to Congress about their knowledge of the drug’s negative effects. Fake testimonials were even faxed to sales representatives to prove that top executives were on their side.
John Brownlee has made it clear to Purdue Pharma’s defense attorney that he won’t budge on anything other than a guilty plea to executives. Although he was aware of how difficult it would be to obtain an individual indictment knowing the influence of the family. The U.S. Attorney for West Virginia charged them with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, distribution of a misbranded drug, intent to defraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering.
Brownlee called as the fraud unit agreed to the indictment, but the criminal division was not on the same page. The catch was that Purdue agreed to settle for wrongdoing against their executives and the company would plead guilty to the crime and pay a fine. Brownlee could either indict the executives and ultimately lose the case, or he could agree to settle and uphold some punishment for the crime. Brownlee accepted the misdemeanor charge, though he never really wanted to settle for it.
He couldn’t risk it all because he knew they had a good chance of losing the case. Purdue Pharma eventually paid $600 million for the damage caused. The malpractice case was able to garner enough negative media attention to bring the issue to light and embarrass the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma.
It was this fight in 2019 that encouraged the attorney’s general of twenty-five states to file a class-action lawsuit against Purdue. From newspaper clippings, we learn that Katie Sackler and David Sackler defended their family. They had to pay 4.5 billion dollars for the lawsuits. They also had to forfeit ownership of the company and release 33 million documents and in return could not be sued.
Essentially, the Sackler family used their company’s bankruptcy to shield themselves from civil liability. Although there was a new settlement in March 2022 where they agreed to pay $5.5-6 billion to the trust, the money will be used to settle the opioid addiction crisis. It is known that even as the United States was going through the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma was facing its consequences, Richard Sackler did not give up hope of making money from this drug.
He continued to call his sales representatives, asking them to be even more aggressive about selling the drugs and making doctors believe they were safe at the end of the day. Without a doubt, the Sackler family is labeled as downright evil; even after all the chaos, no members of the Sackler family could be sent to prison, even though it’s clear they knew the damage the drug could cause.
Yet they chose to play with the lives of thousands of citizens to make a profit. Opiate abuse is still a problem today, and “Dopesick” managed to make opiate abuse part of the mainstream conversation.